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28. 09. 2016. Dmitry Orlov * društveni kolaps * utopija / distopija
Dmitry Orlov

The Five Stages of Collapse: Laying the Groundwork for Social, Political, and Economic Revolution


Orlov postulates that a collapse of modern human society is imminent, and that it will go through following five distinct stages:

  1. Financial collapse - breakdown of international and long-distance trade, credits, banks and other financial institutions.
  2. Commercial collapse - devaluation of money and its disappearance as a means of trade.
  3. Political collapse - government is no longer able to assert its control over its population.
  4. Social collapse - disappearance of social institutions and loss of solidarity within local communities.
  5. Cultural collapse - final disbandment of families.

The idea itself is interesting and sounds credible. I can even recognize that the society that I live in (Serbia - a part of former Yugoslavia) went through the first two stages in the last decade of the 20th century.

Orlov does not give any advice on how a collapse may be prevented (he does not believe that it can be) nor how can one prepare for it (he thinks that the only preparation is mental, because it is not possible to predict when exactly the collapse would occur, and a person/community adjusted to a post-collapse state would be unadjusted to the current state). However he does offer examples how some groups preserved themselves or even prospered in various stages of collapse and expresses hope that the collapse may be arrested by the third stage.

If this book was a 2-3 page essay where Orlov expands upon these ideas it would be fine, but he goes on to write a 240 pages long book where he deals with various topics and makes various claims. Many parts of it are completely irrelevant to the main topic, others are controversial (to say the least) even though he treats them as obvious truths and some are outright false.

While he does offer some sources (by listing his choice of authors and their works), Five Stages of Collapse is overall an unscholarly work - when he treats some topic he does not provide any footnotes, basically everything that he writes is his own interpretation that he freely shapes to fit in his narrative and often he can easily be proven wrong either by basic knowledge of the particular field by the reader or a quick fact checking. He also operates his own definitions of some concepts (for example anarchy and anarchism).

I would say that reading this (unsuccessful) demonstration of Orlov’s broad knowledge of sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, history, linguistics and who knows what else, was a waste of time.

For anyone interested in reading a book on this general topic, treated in a scientific yet accessible way, I recommend: A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright.